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Private contractor to take over Kanawha recycling next week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A private contractor will start operating the Slack Street recycling center next week, but a few county employees won't be coming along under the new operator.

West Virginia Recycling Services will take over operations of the center from the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority on Monday, according to Jeannie Gunter, the authority's director.

Members of the Solid Waste Authority signed a lease with West Virginia Recycling Services on Dec. 18, after months of debate over what to do about the county recycling program. The Solid Waste Authority shut the program down in March 2012 because of health and safety concerns in the 100-year-old building where they sorted recyclables.

Although Slack Street later reopened as a drop-off site, tonnages collected at the site have plummeted, revenues have atrophied, and solid waste officials were spending $20,000 a month to send materials to Beckley. George Hunyadi, a partner in West Virginia Recycling, has said he plans to buy a new scale and repair the crumbling Slack Street facility.

Solid waste officials entered into a public-private partnership with Hunyadi and West Virginia Recycling Services after months of discussions over whether to fix Slack Street themselves, try to find a new location, or shut down altogether. Under the new agreement, West Virginia Recycling will actually operate the recycling center, while the role of the Solid Waste Authority will be largely promotional.

Recycling officials believe Hunyadi will have to collect between 800 and 1,000 tons of recyclables a month to make Slack Street financially viable. The center was taking in a maximum of about 600 tons a month at its peak, making promotion and public education vital to the success of the new operation.

The new deal was discussed at a Solid Waste Authority meeting this week. Gunter said Hunyadi has agreed to keep her on as business manager, and will hire some of the Solid Waste Authority's six employees.

"I'll stay on with the Solid Waste Authority, and he's hired two of the employees," Gunter said.

Gunter said the other three employees will be laid off on Friday, but may be rehired later by West Virginia Recycling Services.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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